Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Maxwell's, The Finale

Hundreds flock to Maxwell's to say farewell

It's been an extended farewell for Maxwell's, the great & perhaps incomparable Hoboken club, bar & restaurant, voluntarily going out of business rather than becoming a Museum of Old Alternative Rock. WFMU has had a long association with the club, & in its earlier days was also a popular gathering spot for poets.

What makes it more poignant is that it's also an overdue farewell to Hoboken, the gritty port city (See On the Waterfront), once known (when I was a teenager) for its excellent pizza & the attractive Italian-American girls hanging out on Washington St., becoming in the 70's & 80's a refuge for musicians & other bohemian types seeking cheaper rents in hundreds of backstreet railroad flats. Long past those eras.  Even the single yuppies who gentrified the city are largely gone, replaced by affluent couples raising their children.  Parking, always a problem, is now impossible. Driving to Maxwell's was always a hassle, not to mention it's not near the PATH station; you have long walk or bus ride.

I was 28 years-old when Maxwell's opened,  past my "club" days - I'd had enough of those by the time I quit rock a few years earlier. I'd be in deep denial if I said Maxwell's closing didn't make me feel my age. It tempers any nostalgic, celebratory feelings I have. For others, especially those in college in the 80's & 90's, Maxwell's was their musical prime, their touchstone. Also a very important venue for bands, with hip, knowledgeable audiences. The list of great bands that played there is astonishing, thanks to two great guys booking the bands.  I consider myself fortunate to have read poetry from its stage, at some benefit for a poetry 'zine.  But I also read at other Hoboken venues, other bars, declining working class gin mills  with backrooms appropriated by poets.  Those places are long gone also.

The grand goodbye for Maxwell's is deserved. It was a club that  made every other venue in Jersey feel a bit provincial once everyone got over the early idea of a "Hoboken sound." It was also a friendly place, always a neighborhood bar (as it had been) - you never felt that aspect was secondary;   proud of its role & history but not dwelling on them. The walls weren't decorated with autographed photos of bands - which would be opposed to the spirit of Maxwell's. Maxwell's went out with its spirit intact.

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